Let Love lead the way

Over the years, I have faced many situations where love, as the world teaches it, told me to seek my own gratification, my own validation, my own comfort, my own consolation. Sometimes, I listened to this. In most of these cases, I have seen that the results do not necessarily last, but more importantly, they do not bring lasting joy and peace. They may produce happiness (or excitement or ecstasy) in the moment, or even for an extended period, depending on who you are, what you want or how much of yourself you have chosen to give up. But true joy and peace, they don’t.

This is because love isn’t really all these things.

Love is desiring the good of the other above all else, even when the good of the other means your own pain, your own sacrifice, even when it means self-denial. This is difficult and demanding, and sometimes, the self-sacrifice and self-denial is required for an extended period.

In this, we always have the example of our Lord Jesus Christ, who loved like no other. In the end, He vindicated all of humanity, but not before He died. And that is the hard part. The death.

Letting love lead the way always requires death. Death to our own self-importance, death to our own dreams or desires, death to our being right, death to our own demands to be loved as we want to be loved, death to our own comfort, death to our own consolation, death to our own search for happiness… Death to whatever does not truly result in the good of the other, even if the other thinks it is what is good for them.

Most importantly, letting love lead the way requires faith. Faith that God knows best and that if we just keep to what He says is right, and true and good, no matter the circumstances, it shall all be well, in the end. Faith that we are all so much better in the end if we choose a love that hurts and bleeds but can always be tried and found true. Not selfish or self-seeking but true.

This is AGAPE. The highest and truest form of love. It is therefore no surprise that we constantly fall short of that mark, that I constantly fall short of that mark. But part of my daily struggle is that, as long as grace provides the possibility of reaching for or aiming for that mark, I should always try. It is much easier to give in to my humanity, my weaknesses, my desire for comfort, and validation, and consolation, but I know my potential for reaching for the highest. I know it is in me because I am made in the image and likeness of one who lived it, one who lives it. I know I do not have many excuses to sidestep grace when it is offered to me. And so many times, I choose to take it, as painful and sacrificial as it may be. Many times still, I choose me. I choose comfort and consolation. But in all those times, I can never escape the knowledge and truth that I am made for more.

So I know I must always let true love lead the way. It is hard, it seems cold, it seems unfeeling, it is lonely (because who wants the hard road?), but it brings peace, and I can always live with the one companion I could never escape: myself. It is my calling. It is our calling.

 

2019…the year that was

Happy New Year!

 

As today is the first day of 2020, I thought it fitting to share some reflections on the past year.


2019 was HECTIC. It was a year of activity, reflection, self-discovery, risk, fight, courage and perseverance.

 

It was a year of pleasantly realizing that in spite of my calm and soft-spoken veneer, I have the mettle and the fight to push for results at work. A colleague even called me assertive. It’s never been an adjective I would use to describe myself.

 

I worried about my Mum’s health and also relaxed in thanks to God when she was more stable. I watched my youngest niece start to walk and grow into this little bundle of activity that is now starting to make sentences and give her 3 brothers a run for their money. I watched my youngest nephew settle well into the active little boy that he is now, always eager to touch, feel and discover things in every new environment.

 

I had to constantly remind myself that I deserve the kind of love that is attentive and focused, and that is in itself a constant reminder of the true gem that I am.

 

It was a year of understanding and appreciating that I am the product of all the experiences I have lived and everything that others have labored to teach me and pour into me to make me who I am today. I can therefore pay it forward by pouring into others as well, so as to contribute to the shaping of young leaders who are willing and able to make a difference in their society.

 

Towards the 4th quarter of the year, I guess I finally decided it was time to be a little bold and put my true self out there, my true musical self. To stop the constant worry about what people will think and just share from a place of love and generosity, having finally felt the calm and peace that comes from knowing that I am moving in tandem with the purposes of my Maker. Each step required a constant reminder that I have chosen love, and not fear, a reaffirmation of what I would like my life story to be.

 

So it was a year of staring fear in the face, in the hope of making it cower and helping love to grow in its place. I had to actively remind myself not to settle into the ever ready couch of procrastination.

 

It was a year of embracing my God-given talents and knowing that I have the means to use each one of them to be an instrument of hope, peace, love and harmony.

 

It was a year of knowing and constantly reminding myself of my ‘raison de faire’, my reason to do, in all the things that I chose to give my time, in spite of the inevitable demands on my body. 2020 is probably going to require even more of that. There are still going to be great demands on my time, and my commitment to the causes and pursuits that I have chosen and committed to, and continue to choose and commit to.

 

But I am happy, because for the first time in several years, I feel like there was progress in the things that I truly care about. My demanding self is satisfied because I lived more deliberately, and I can say goodbye to the year with satisfaction.

 

All glory and honor to God my Father.

 

As 2020 begins, I realize that I am excited to continue on the new journeys that I started. I am also terrified, because none of it is going to be easy, and the exercise of choosing love over fear and fight over flight has to continue.

 

Over time, I have realized that the 1st reading at Mass on this first day of the year is always the same. A blessing taken from Numbers 6:24-26. I pray that blessing on you and yours for this year. May it be better than you know it is going to be.

Numbers 6_24-26
Credit to: http://tokickapigeon.files.wordpress.com/2011/06/img_2475.jpg

 

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas… with the little Jesus

I hope you and your family and friends are enjoying the warmth of Christmas.

I was reminded twice today about the mystery that is at the center of this holiday. Once during the priest’s homily at Mass today, and the second time when a friend shared this image with the caption: “Only by looking from heaven can we understand this mystery”.

Nativity from Heaven

The fact that God became man on that night so long ago in a stable is something we tend to forget in all the fanfare that comes with this season. It is hard enough to understand while focusing solely on the birth of Christ in Bethlehem so many years ago. Which is why we do need to see it with the eyes of faith, from the perspective of heaven, so to speak. My prayer is that you and I may always remember the testament of the love of God that we celebrate today, and so with the angels always say:

Glory to God in the highest, and peace to men of good will.

One of the things I like the most about Christmas is the music. So I thought I would share a song in this video I made with a friend. I hope you will enjoy it. I sure do hope to make more of these in the future, and not just for Christmas.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you and yours.

May the joy of the new born Christ stay with you throughout 2020. 

 

Be Kind

In 1897, the Rev. Dr. John Watson of the Free Church of Scotland, also known by his pen name Ian Maclaren, wrote: “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” This was the quote in my email signature for my work email account 12 years ago. Incidentally, I was fighting my own small, personal battle at the time, related to matters of the heart. I say small now, but at the time, it did not feel small at all. This quote helped me see that I was not alone on the battlefield, which gave me a boost and put a little spring in my step.

Knowing that others are fighting battles too helps us to focus less on ourselves, to look outwards and to realize that in the grand scheme of things, our battles are not epic, and that others are fighting bigger battles. This knowledge makes our battles smaller and gives them less power over us. A story is told about a sage who was visited by a group of people complaining about their problems. When he gave them each a chance to exchange their problem with that of another, they immediately wanted their own problem back. You can read that story here.

The more we focus on a problem, the bigger it seems to get. And before long, we can’t see anything else in front of us. At that moment, it feels like life is only about that battle, when in fact, it is about much more, and no one single battle should define us.

Be Kind2

When I was in that fog 12 years ago, a friend confided in me about some challenges he was facing in his family. Basically (among other things), he had the responsibility of taking care of his brothers, their education and their day-to-day study needs, and he was barely out of university. As I listened to him, my battle started to look like child’s play in comparison, and the result of our conversation was that I felt better, and I knew I could overcome. Nothing had changed. I had simply focused on someone and something outside of myself for about an hour. And it was well worth it.

Life’s constant battles are a key characteristic of the human condition. Even at the best of times, each one of us is always fighting something. We are always working to better ourselves materially, socially, spiritually, intellectually or emotionally. In other words, even those that look like they’ve not once been to battle in their lives are fighting one. I think we should welcome this. When you are fighting a battle, it is a sure sign that you are alive, that you care to still be alive. Without them, what is there to aim for or live for? As a human being, I must always better myself, to make something more of the raw materials I have been given. Ergo, battle.

What then should we do about this? Why not embrace it, and remember you can always ease another’s battles by being nice to them, or cutting them a little slack when they do not meet your expectations, or offering a kind word, or offering to teach them something? You will be so much better for it.

Be kind.

The Multitude of Saints

Friday 1st November 2019 was All Saints’ Day. A day when we celebrate all saints, those declared (say St Augustine) and those undeclared (say, your grandmother and mine who were prayerful, God-fearing ladies of unshakable faith, but didn’t speak a word of English or Latin, and never wrote any documents that are now part of Theology curriculums).

For Catholics like myself, it is a day of obligation, meaning we have to attend Holy Mass. In one of the readings of the day, from Revelations 7, there was mention of “a vision of a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue”.

Photo credit: Present Truth Ministries
The Great Multitude

Later in the day, on a Whatsapp chat group with my siblings, we were advising one of my sisters (who was wondering how to explain her fancy suit on a Friday to her boss) to say she was all dressed up because it was All Saints’ Day. (It wasn’t the reason she was wearing a suit, but that is outside the topic of this post). When she told us he is agnostic, we told her to tell him that they too can be saints. Reflecting on this later, in light of Revelations 7, my heart was warmed all day by the wonder of the mercy of God, and the idea that I could one day be part of that multitude, along with my sister’s boss 🙂

I know next to nothing about Agnosticism. I do know though, that I serve a loving and merciful God, who created all, including those who do not know Him, and looks for and waits for all, who choose love in their lives.

Happy Month of November!

Remember to pray specially for those who have gone before us this month.

 

Adopt, Adapt, Adept

I love words.

Last night, out of the complete blue, I found myself musing on three words. It had never occurred to me how they each refer to stages in the process of taking up something (new), of starting to do something or use something. You arrive at the next stage in the process by simply changing the vowel in the word.

Let’s start with ADOPT. You could adopt a hobby, a habit, a process, and so on.

What happens after that? You ADAPT to what you have taken up or started using or doing. You get used to it, to the feeling of doing things in your new way.

And after that? You become ADEPT at your new habit, or hobby or process. You become good at it; at using it.

Voila!

If you are anything like me, you are probably thinking about the next two vowels. No luck there. The words ‘adipt‘ and ‘adupt‘ do not exist. So we just stop at these 3 words and the surprising marvel of how related they actually are.

So, does any of this seem rather random to you? Yeah? Me too.

In my defense, I really do love words.

 

The joy of giving

I attended a wedding ceremony on Saturday. Two actually; but only one of them is the subject of this post. I had not planned to attend this ceremony because I didn’t know about it. Until Tuesday morning that is, when I received a beautiful video of a couple getting married from a friend who happens to be the bride’s mother. I was honored that she had invited me, and I knew that it would mean a lot to her if I attended because she had made the effort to invite me, without expecting anything from me. I decided that the best I could do was attend the ceremony in church, since I had other plans for the afternoon. She is a pleasant woman anyway. The kind that one would like to please.

Come Saturday, my morning turned out to be busier than I had expected. While on my way home to change before going to the 11.00am ceremony, I found myself dozing at the steering wheel. Since I had carefully avoided committing myself when asking for the details of the ceremony, I considered ditching it altogether and staying home to sleep before the next ceremony. As luck would have it however, just that morning, I had convinced my Mum -who had also been invited- to come with me. So I couldn’t back out. I got home, changed, picked my Mum up, and we braved the Saturday morning traffic to St Augustine’s Chapel Makerere.

We made it on time, mostly because the ceremony was actually scheduled to start at midday, and not 11.00am as communicated. The mother of the bride was one of the first people we saw, and after profusely thanking us for coming, she proceeded to give me duties, mostly because she figured I was familiar with the surroundings. She was right, and I was glad to offer a little help.

It turned out to be a beautiful ceremony, as weddings involving friends are wont to be, even more so among people who genuinely value your friendship. It had taken some work getting there, and it took some more work rushing to the next ceremony afterwards. But the joy and gratitude of the bride’s mother at seeing us made it all worthwhile. It was a wonderful way to experience the joy and reward of giving.

#UgBlogWeek. Today’s post is dead. Come back tomorrow.

This is by far the hardest day for me in this #UgBlogWeek. For some reason, I am quite exhausted, despite not having worked today and, save for a couple of hours in the evening, having spent the entire day at home. So what is it that has me so tired? Is it the exhaustion from a long week catching up with me, or the string of late nights I have been doing, thanks in part to #UgBlogWeek?

It is not just challenging because I am tired. It is also challenging because I cannot find any images or random words to ignite that spark that usually gets me past the 100 word mark. Of course, the fact that I am dozing off is not helping matters. Is there any salvation for this post?

The data bundle on my modem just run out. I tethered from my phone briefly before that run out too and I was forced to simply load a bundle on my modem. I will use it tomorrow though because I just called Time of Death on today’s post.

Good night!

#UgBlogWeek It was not forever, but at least we tried, like The Man in the Arena

Back in the day, before Miley Cyrus had made twerking a thing, and she and Liam Hemsworth were still dating, they got matching tattoos.

Liam Hemsworth-Miley Cyrus tattoos
Liam Hemsworth-Miley Cyrus tattoos

Rather apt I must say, considering they eventually broke up. Hey, at least they fought hard to make it work. We can safely say they are neither cold nor timid.

The words in the tattoos are a quote from Citizenship in a Republic, a 35-page speech given by former President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt, at the Sorbonne in Paris in 1910.

Many a time, those that ridicule and criticize us as we attempt feats of great daring and courage are the ones who dare not try themselves. What better way to feel better about themselves than to convince themselves that others cannot accomplish what they dare not try? They desperately need it to be true so that they do not come off as cowards.

Roosevelt’s words are a powerful reminder to pay no mind to what other people say as you go about the business of working towards your goals. To cast aside fear and failure and mediocrity and the pedestrian, and reach for excellence in your chosen fields. Just like the “Man in the Arena”.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

#UgBlogWeek. Day 2. Already? Again? Must I? Ok, here’s an Ode to Family…(sorry I meant Day 4)

So it is Day 2 of #UgBlogWeek, albeit with only a few minutes to Day 3. Day 2 for me anyway. I started yesterday, remember? I must confess that for someone who goes months without publishing a single post, this is indeed a challenge. Here I was, typing away late into last night, excited about the prospect of finally having some Ugandan followers, only to wake up to just one additional Follow, that was not even from a Ugandan! Talk about ice water being poured all over my excitement.

Okay, maybe my expectations were too high. Here’s to taking them down a notch. Scratch that. Here’s to taking them down six notches…… Yes, I think that is a reasonable level of expectation.

I just got home late from a family meeting. I must admit to the stark contrast between the meetings I attend with my family, and the meetings I attend at work :-). My family is the kind that looks for excuses to be together because we truly enjoy each other’s company. And even if today’s meeting was long overdue, you always get the sense that none of us really minds staying longer than planned.

I feel really blessed to belong to a unit that overflows with love and concern, one for the other. Of course, we don’t always agree, but the greater good is always the end goal. We each have our busy lives, and yes, sometimes we don’t hear from each other as often as we’d like, but we thank God for Whatsapp :-).

We started this thing on our siblings Whatsapp group where we post one thing that we are grateful for every day. Of course, with the fast-paced existence of our generation, we have not exactly kept to it. But today, instead of saying it on Whatsapp, I am saying it here. So consider this an Ode to the people I am blessed to call family.